Virus numbers still rising as Christmas nears


Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise locally as the first vaccine shipments arrived in Georgia this week.
Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday the first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in Coastal Georgia, and that additional shipments were expected at other facilities across the state later in the week.
The vaccine is to be distributed in phases, prioritizing healthcare workers likely to be exposed to the virus, first responders and people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including those with underlying medical conditions and people 65 years old and older, according to the Department of Public Health’s vaccination distribution plan.
COVID-19 cases have continued to rise in Hart County recently, with 154 new cases added within the past two weeks, as of Thursday. The total number of confirmed cases in Hart County since March surpassed 900 as of Thursday morning, according to the DPH. The DPH also reports the case rate per 100,000 of population was more than 3,470 on Thursday. 
There were 94 active cases in Hart County as of Wednesday morning, according to county administrator Terrell Partain.
The Hart County Charter System closed for winter break early this week, citing a local increase in cases and a difficulty finding adequate staffing with the number of employees quarantined for possible exposure.
As of Friday, Dec. 11, 18 students in the school system, or 0.5 percent of the student body, were positive for the virus. Additionally, 16 employees, or 3.1 percent of employees, were positive for COVID-19.
The school system previously disclosed the number of quarantined students and employees, but did not in its latest report.
The second-most number of cases added on a single day in Hart County was on Dec. 12 when 22 new cases were added.
There have been 20 deaths related to or directly attributed to COVID-19 in Hart County, according to the DPH, with 11 other deaths listed as “probable” — two of which were added over the past week. Hart County has seen at least 89 residents hospitalized with the virus.
The testing percent positivity rate, which the DPH says can indicate the level of community spread, was 19.8 percent between Dec. 5 and Dec. 11, which is an increase of more than one percent from the previous week.
Hart County, along with a vast swath of Northeast Georgia, is considered a “high transmission” county.
The first shipment of 5,850 doses arrived Monday at two locations in Coastal Georgia equipped with ultracold freezers required for storage and temperature control of the vaccine.
“Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of this pandemic,” Christy Norman, vice president of pharmacy services at Emory Healthcare, said Monday during a news briefing.
The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control during the weekend issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine, the first to emerge from the U.S. pipeline targeting coronavirus. A second vaccine produced by Moderna is expected to receive federal approval for distribution this week.
“This is really exciting for us,” said Dr. Marybeth Sexton, an assistant professor of medicine and epidemiologist at Emory. “We’re going to have access to a vaccine that looks in initial clinical studies to be highly effective.”
Statewide, more than 484,000 people have contracted the virus and more than 9,250 have died as of Tuesday, according to the DPH.
Dave Williams with the Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.

  • Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise locally as the first vaccine shipments arrived in Georgia this week.
    Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise locally as the first vaccine shipments arrived in Georgia this week.